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Avoiding the Cross

 

 

Cross SunsetIn my last post I talked about the pattern of living that the Apostle Paul handed down to his churches.

Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.
Philippians 3:17-18

The unfortunate truth that Paul saw in his day, and is an epidemic in ours, is that many believers live as enemies of the cross. Please understand. They’re not really enemies – they would never think to put it into those terms.

They actually think they’re followers of Christ. But in reality, enemies try to avoid one another at all costs. That’s how many treat the cross.

You can see it in a church service. When the sermon starts heading in that direction, eyes start to glaze over.

“Yes, Pastor, we know we need to take up our cross. But I’d rather hear something that will get me a better job.”

Paul describes these people in the next verse.

Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.
Philippians 3:19

Actually, this verse isn’t as bad as it sounds. What’s translated as their destiny is destruction isn’t talking about spending eternity in hell. What it means is that the destination of the road they’re on is ruin and loss.

It’s talking about what happens in this life. So much of the church is wallowing in ruin and loss. We spend so much time trying to come up with teachings that merely put a Band-Aid on the problem.

He also describes the objects of their focus. It’s all about their stomach, their shame and earthly things. Christians are involved in so much these days – a lot of them are healthy pursuits. Restaurants, gym memberships, sports leagues, and hundreds of other things.

Many of us give great sounding reasons for what we do. We want to be well-rounded people. Our lives need to be in balance. We want the world to see that we’re regular people. Paul, however, sees it from a different perspective.

Through the eyes of Christ, the Apostle breaks through our excuses and zeroes in on what’s really going on. It’s all about us. Our god is our stomach. Our desire is to fulfill the lusts and desires of our flesh. We look at the world around us and get jealous of all that they experience. We want to partake of the same things.

We glory in our shame. This is a hallmark of our society. I’m ashamed that I don’t look like the actor on TV with those washboard abs. I have to start a program at the gym to try and work on it.

My heroes are the singers on American Idol, so I need to take voice lessons. I want to be like the athletes I watch at the stadium, so I join a basketball league. Now, I’m too busy to do very much for Christ.

It all boils down to the last statement Paul makes – their mind is on earthly things. It doesn’t matter how good you make it sound. The things that distract us from pursuing Christ will only pull us down to ruin and loss. It’s time for the church to wake up.

Question: How do we break free from the distractions of the world?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

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Posted by on January 5, 2015 in Revival, The Church

 

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A Prophecy for 2015

 

2015I’ve found that the Psalms have lined up with current affairs since the year 1901. Over the past 10 years or so I’ve preached from a Psalm each year and it’s been amazingly accurate. The Psalm for the New Year is Psalm 115.

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.
Psalm 115:1

We need to start 2015 on the right footing. It’s all about the Lord’s glory and not ours. Sometimes we miss that in the quest for bigger ministries. Yes, we want the move of God to attract people, but it’s the name of Jesus that should be the goal.

Moving on from here, there’s a bigger issue at stake. I believe that 2015 is the year of the big question. It’s what we should have been asking long before now.

Why do the nations say, “Where is their God?”
Psalm 115:2

Wow! Could there be any other question more appropriate for our present generation of believers? Notice that the question isn’t, “Where is their God?” It’s more a question to us, asking what are we doing that blinds the world to who our God is.

Why is the nation unaware of our God? Why do they believe that God is irrelevant to our lives? That’s the question of the hour.

The next part of the Psalm gives the answer to it all.

Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell; they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.
Psalm 115:3-8

We’ve forgotten the simple truth that our God is Lord over all. The things that the world runs after can never give life. These things can never help us in our time of need.

Money, entertainment, social media sites, and all the rest are merely distractions keeping us from experiencing the best God has for us. In their right place – under the authority of Christ – they can be beneficial. But when they take time away from our walk with the Holy Spirit, we’re headed for ruin.

We can’t afford to fill our lives with the world’s distractions. It’s time for God’s people to press into the place of intimacy with Him. That’s where the true source of power is found.

You who fear him, trust in the Lord — he is their help and shield.
Psalm 115:5

This year we need to remember where our allegiance should be. The rest of the Psalm is a blessing upon those who are willing to take the time to seek the Lord’s presence. Let 2015 be the year we turn things around. Make it the year that the world sees that truly there is a God who works in and through His church.

Have a blessed and prosperous New Year in Christ!

Question: What are you trust God for in this coming year?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2014 in Power of God, Revival, The Church

 

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Dissipation, Drunkenness, Anxiety – Signs of the Times

TimingI just want to spend one more post on the teachings of Christ concerning His return. This is how Jesus closed this part of His End-Times teaching in Luke.

“Be careful or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you will be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”
Luke 21:34-36

Jesus tells us that because of our knowledge of future events, our lives should be different from the world. We have a mission before us that’s time sensitive. Those things that hinder us from effectively preaching the Gospel of Christ must be put away.

The Lord spoke of dissipation. The Greek word literally means tossing-head. It was the common term for a hangover. We associate this term with drinking, but Jesus wasn’t limiting it to the use of alcohol.

Whenever we leave our calling to chase after the world, there’s a wasted period of time while we get back on track again. This is the period of our spiritual “hangover”. Too many Christians are living most of their lives in dissipation.

They’re either giving in to the desire for the things of the world or they’re trying to regain what they’ve lost. Don’t waste most of your life in dissipation.

Drunkenness, then, is the actual pursuit of worldly pleasures. You can become intoxicated on more that just alcohol. Power, money, sports, and a host of other distractions can rob you of your effectiveness in God.

Does that mean that all these things are sin? Absolutely not! But if you find yourself more involved in these temporary things than in your walk with God, then your priorities are messed up.

The third warning the Lord gives us is to beware of the anxieties of life. We’re not to be so overwhelmed by our cares that it hinders our walk with God.

When we spend most of our time worrying about finances, health, and relationships, we lose our desire to serve God faithfully. Jesus said that if you seek His kingdom and His righteousness first, then your needs would be taken care of.

Jesus said that the temptation to fall into these traps would come on all people – no exceptions. There will be no free rides. He’s warning us about the future so that we’ll be ready.

That’s why He said that if you’re watchful, awake, and alert, you could pray to escape some of these things. Literally it means to run away from. I believe that if we seek God’s wisdom, we’ll be protected from much of the pain that will come to the earth. Of course that means we need to listen for God’s voice of instruction, and then obey Him when He speaks.

I believe that the last days of this age are going to be the most exciting time period that any Christian could be a part of.

Question: What emotions does the thought of Christ’s return stir up in you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2014 in Return of Christ, The Church

 

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Vision – Get it in Writing!

NI’ve been posting about the importance of knowing God’s vision for your life and ministry. Without vision it’s easy to be distracted into areas that don’t fulfill God’s plan for you.

If you have no clear vision from the Lord, then that needs to be one of your greatest priorities in prayer. Spend the time necessary to hear from the Holy Spirit. Without a clear vision, you’ll never have a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment that’s a part of the life of a victorious believer.

But knowing God’s vision for your life is only half of the issue. Once you have a grasp of God’s plan for you, there’s more you can do to solidify it.

In my last post I talked about a verse from the prophet Habakkuk. It bears repeating.

Then the LORD replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.
For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.”
Habakkuk 2:2-3

There’s more to vision than just knowledge of its particulars. It also needs to be declared openly so that you can run with it. It needs to be constantly before your eyes so that you’ll not lose sight of it. This means that you need to write it down in a clear, understandable language.

Never apologize for or water down the dream God has given you. There may be some details of it, which other people aren’t ready to hear just yet, but the general direction should be clear.

There’s been a lot of talk over the years about having a “mission statement.” Once again, man tries to take credit for something that God told us to do a thousand years ago.

A mission statement is merely a vision that’s written down and declared. You can only hit as high as you aim. If you expect nothing from God, I can guarantee that you will get it!

But when you’re willing to take a risk, and declare publicly what God has placed in your heart, then you’re a candidate for a supernatural ministry. As an example to you, I’ll share the mission statement God has given me for my life and ministry.

My mission: “To search out and study the deeper truths of God’s Word, then by making them plain and understandable through the teaching of Scripture, cause individual believers as well as the body of Christ to live up to their God-given potential in Christ.”

Having a written vision is very important. There are so many things that can be done. Having a written statement allows us to filter out the excess. If it doesn’t somehow bring us another step closer to the vision, then no matter how good it is, we don’t need it.

Excellence requires vision. But that vision must be birthed in the mind of God and not man. This requires a listening heart and an abundance of time in the presence of the Lord. It will not be a quick and easy process. But if you make a decision to be excellent and follow it through before God, then He will see to it that you know the vision He has called you to attain.

Question: What is your personal mission statement?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2014 in Ministry, Prayer, Spirit of Excellence

 

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The Locked Up Church

LockedIn my last post I talked about the picture of the church that the Lord gave me from Acts, chapter 16. In that passage, Paul and Silas are in prison, chained up, in the dark. Yet they were praying and singing as if nothing were unusual.

I said that much of the church is in that condition today. We go on praising God every Sunday, yet having no effect on the world the rest of the week. How did we get into this position?

I believe that it’s because we didn’t heed the warning that Christ gave us during His ministry.

“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.”
Luke 21:34

Here Jesus tells us of three weights that can hinder us from fulfilling our destiny. They are called dissipation, drunkenness, and anxieties. We will never reach our true potential in Christ if we try to run with these hindrances.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Hebrews 12:1

We are warned to throw off the things that hinder. Probably the worst is dissipation. We allow the best parts of our life to be dissipated.

The world has so many distractions these days. Classes we could take, recreational opportunities, athletic events, and entertainment. All of these things, in and of themselves, add to our enjoyment of life. They’re good things.

“Everything is permissible for me” – but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me” – but I will not be mastered by anything.
1 Corinthians 6:12

Yes, they are all good things, permissible things, but they’ve become the masters of our lives. They dictate our schedules. They tell us what we can and can’t do for God.

We fill up our time with all these good things. Then, more often than not, God gets the leftovers. Our leftover time, strength, and resources.

What happens when God says, “I want you to take a week to meet together and experience my work of revival in you.”?

“Sorry, that won’t work for me. I have a class on Monday night. Tuesday is my bowling league. Thursday I have to get the kids to their Karate lessons. I just can’t make it out to weekday meetings.”

Where does all the time go? Dissipation. We have allowed the distractions of the world to dissipate the time that should belong to the Lord. Our schedules have become mastered by the good things of the world.

In this way the church has become a prisoner to our permissible things. We are in chains and in the dark. We need to be set free by the power of God.

Question: What will it take to shatter these chains from the church?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2014 in Revival, The Church

 

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Our Culture of Darkness

SunriseA little over a year ago I posted a series about Christianity as a counter-culture. I want to pick up that theme again for a few more posts. Too many believers want to keep their feet in both the church and the world. That’s going to become increasingly difficult as we approach the Lord’s return.

The world hates Christ and His people. Please understand what I mean by this. I’m talking about the world system and not the individual people themselves. It’s the system – the way our culture has established itself – that’s against the knowledge of Christ.

The Lord spoke about it.

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
John 3:19

We live in a society that hates the light – the knowledge of truth. This is because truth is an agent of change. When I begin to know and understand the truth, I’m responsible to do something with it.

Because of this, the default response of the world is, “I don’t want to know the truth.” They have found that ignorance is bliss – at least in the short term.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
John 3:17-18

Here’s what many people don’t understand. Christ didn’t come to condemn the world. And it’s definitely not our job either. We are not here to rebuke sinners for doing what is natural to them.

The problem arises when the light of truth becomes evident. Even though we may not directly condemn anyone, by rejecting the truth they stand condemned. In effect, they’ve condemned themselves.

When you know that there’s a right path, yet you knowingly chose the wrong way, you become self-condemned. At that point the only solution is to cram your life with so many distractions that you never think about this truth.

That’s where our society finds itself today. We have more opportunities to amuse ourselves than ever before. I chose that word on purpose. A-muse – it literally means to not-think.

On the other side of the coin, we as believers should be the ones who don’t fear the truth. We should delight in the presence of the Lord and His Word. We should be welcoming the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

We can’t afford to pick up the attitude of the world. Don’t fall victim to the distractions of this age which will short-circuit your destiny in Christ. Spend time in the light of Christ and His truth.

Question: How does walking in the light differ from walking in the darkness?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2014 in Revival, The Church

 

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Is the Word of God Your Obsession?

Lion2I’ve been talking about the three levels of Scriptural meditation. It’s something that the body of Christ needs to once again focus on. In my last post I talked about the first level.

On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.
Psalm 63:6

The next step takes the thinking process deeper into your heart. In the above verse think of is the Hebrew word Hagah. This word is a strengthened form of the verb Hagag. It means to intensely think about.

Meditation at this level requires memorization of the Scripture. You have to become intimate with the Word of God.

At this level you begin to obsess on the Scripture. You dwell on it. You imagine the sights, the smells, and the textures. If it’s a teaching Scripture, then you imagine yourself obeying it. Get inside the Word. See it as written in you and about you. This starts to give you a deeper understanding of the application.

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
Joshua 1:8

We all want prosperity and success. But are we willing to do what it takes to achieve the level of excellence necessary to lay hold of them? In order to develop a spirit of excellence, it will require you to use at least this level of meditation.

This is what the LORD says to me: “As a lion growls, a great lion over his prey – and though a whole band of shepherds is called together against him, he is not frightened by their shouts or disturbed by their clamor – so the LORD Almighty will come down to do battle on Mount Zion and on its heights.”
Isaiah 31:4

You may wonder what this verse has to do with meditating on the Word of God. Scripture describes it as a lion meditating on its prey. Hagah is the word growl in the above verse.

It doesn’t matter that a band of shepherds are trying to distract this lion. His focus remains fixed and unbroken. He has one thing in mind – lamb chops!

We need to obsess over the Word of the Lord the way a lion does over his prey. Don’t let the devil or the world distract you from your objective.

The question isn’t whether or not you have to do this. You can get by in your Christian walk without meditating on the Word of God. Even if you’re in the full-time ministry, there are enough books and tapes around to keep you in sermons and Bible studies for the rest of your life.

We should always desire something fresh from the Word. A major portion of what you’re preaching and teaching must come from your walk with the Lord. You can’t build a ministry of excellence if all you do is rehash what everyone else is saying.

When you allow the Holy Spirit to meet with you in the place of meditation, you’re in communication with the Author, Himself. In this way, you will gain insight you never thought possible.

This is something you must desire and go after. The choice is yours. You can stand before the people with a nice teaching; or you can come to them with a Word from God.

In my next post I’ll move on to the highest level of godly meditation.

Question: How often do you purpose to memorize Scripture?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

This series is adapted from my book, Breaking Free from the Pack – How to Develop a Spirit of Excellence.

 

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